I made a lot of fuss about running my first marathon in Bengaluru, held on Sunday, Oct 19.
Almost religiously I followed the training regimen suggested by Nike App. I fretted over every mile I ran less during the nine weeks of practice. I ran more than 350 miles during this period. I was worried terribly when pain showed up on my ankle, heel or knees. Concerned that I wouldn’t make it to the starting point from my relative’s home in Bengaluru, I booked a hotel close to Kanteerva Stadium, the starting point.
I took advice from every experienced marathon runner I could get within hearing distance. Two weeks before the run, Suresh with whom I run during weekends told me something I will never forget. It was, to run with the intention of finishing, entertaining no other possibility. He also suggested I run at my own pace without too much of strain.
From then onwards, I told myself that the Bengaluru marathon would be for real and not just a preparation for the Wipro Chennai marathon in December. So, my goal changed to finishing my run whatever happened. Based on my pace during the training period, I projected my finishing time over and over again in my mentalscape – in the vicinity of 5 hours. Then I told friends and my relatives that I am going to run the marathon race in Bengaluru.
The run became an obsession with me.I bought myself a new pair of shoes and made sure that all of my running gear was as light as possible. Not happy with the socks I had, I bought a new one the day before the run.
The night before the run, the G.M of St.Mark’s Hotel where I was staying, (he was running a half-marathon, himself) hosted my dinner consisting of pasta, deliberately chosen for its carbohydrate content. Though I was in bed by 9 pm, sleep eluded me for a long time. From around 2 am again, I lay on bed wide awake, waiting for the wake up call from the room service at 3 am. The hotel’s room service brought me a small quantity of fruits – a banana and some pieces of papaya – at 4 am. The people at the hotel are special.
Then I was on my way, along with young Pratap, another runner who was staying in the adjacent room. He is a product of National Defense Academy and is a pilot instructor. He exuded confidence in completing the marathon, though the longest he had run previously was just 23 km. I did not give him much of a chance.
The run started at 5 am and Pratap broke off from me right away, eager to complete the run in record time. I carried no mobile or watch to monitor the distance and pace. I ran with a few people from Chennai till 25 km, but I broke off from them soon enough.
There is terrific camaraderie and respect among runners and I saw a few of them sticking by one another. Yet, in most cases, each of them runs for himself or herself. They all have the goal of the same distance to cover in the best time possible.
I found the weather perfect, there was the typical Bengaluru nip in the air, though I heard someone complain about the humidity. Talk like that can sap energy. There was no way I was going to pay serious attention to even small negative hints from people. Speak no evil to myself and hear no evil from others, was my policy for the run. I had decided that I would run at my best pace, unconcerned about the timing and the distance covered.
The response of the city itself was rather muted. At a few places, I saw a few drivers arguing at the top of their voice with the police for blocking the road for the runners. There weren’t too many people along the sides to cheer the runners. Only, I saw army men on a long stretch of the way, clapping and egging us on. I vividly remember the spring in my gait during that phase of the run.
Orange slices, bananas, water and glucose drink along the way gave me the energy to keep running. I did not pant for breath at any stage of my run. But after 30 km, my legs became heavier with every step and soon they felt like lead. I wondered a few times whether I would last beyond 35 km, the longest distance I had covered about 12 years back.
The doubts came like dark clouds threatening my goal, but my resolve dispelled them and brought in the sunshine I needed to keep going. At this stage, I agonised over the painfully slow conquest of every kilometer. Some runners, including a few resolute ladies overtook me. It is a humbling experience to be outrun, and the best option is to accept my limitations with grace.
About 250 metres before the finish line in the stadium, Pratap was waiting for me – after finishing his grueling run – to honour me by escorting me to the stadium, running. He urged me to find the strength to sprint the last hundred metres, which I did. He told me that I ran the marathon in about 4.50 hrs.
Today, I checked my official timing at www.timingindia.com. Here is what I found.
Bib Number: 44020
Name: Babu Vincent
Category: SENIOR VETERAN MEN
Rank: 332 / 716 Finishers
Category Rank: 12 / 22 Finishers
Gender Rank: 309 / 662 Finishers
Net Time: 04:50:29 Average Pace 06:53, Average Speed 8.72 kmph
Gross Time: 04:51:21 Average Pace 06:54, Average Speed 8.69 kmph
I am pleased with myself, though there is no reason to feel overjoyed. The figures on top suggest there is a long way to go.
A little while ago, I registered for the Spice Coast Marathon happening in Cochin on November 16, this year. Then, there is Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon happening on Jan 18 that is whetting my appetite.
Every marathon race is a new challenge to be met and conquered. Nothing can be taken for granted, a marathoner has to tread with healthy respect for the event – like the awe one feels for the sea.
It is time to feel obsessed again, training for another conquest. The chances are, having come this far, I will go farther and do better.